The Town

OK, OK, OK, I take it all back. He’s NOT “Flobby Ben Affleck” any more, OK? I get it. He’s a lean mean fighting machine. And in The Town, which he also directed with flair, he is electrifyingly good.

Set in the Charlestown area of Boston that’s apparently reknowned for its national ranking in bank robberies, Affleck plays a gang member who’s disillusioned with the life and yearning for some kind of redemption. He thinks he’s found it in a sweet bank manageress (Rebecca Hall) who he meets when he’s raiding her bank. Fortunately he’s wearing a plastic mask at the time so she doesn’t recognise him.

But the plot say his thuggish buddies think she might, and the resolute FBI agent in hot pursuit (drop-dead-Jon-Hamm, also excellent) also thinks she might, and so everyone is torn and pulled and pressurised in every direction: it’s almost perfect plotting. (so perfect there’s just a teensy sneaking sense we’ve seen it before.) But that minor winge aside, the entire cast is first rate, the action scenes are right up there with some of the best, and the whole experience is tense, edge-of-your-seat terrific. Certainly my top film of the year to date. Oh yes, Benjy, you’re back in my good books for the first time since, well….probably ever.

Boston too – and Charlestown in particular – what a place? I’m so used to seeing American cities that are sort of post-Victorian. Instead Boston seems a jumble of narrow maze-like streets and flattened vowels. It’s sort of like Paris. The car chases through the lanes and alleys are thrilling, and the director makes great use of aerial shots to capture the intimacy of the Town compared to the rest of the city. The climactic scene takes place in and around Fenwick Park baseball stadium, something which must have taken some nifty footwork to pull off.

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The Proposal

I love Sandra Bullock. I love her because she’s funny and beautiful and self-deprecating, but mainly because she reminds me of my scouser friend Helen, with whom I lived and studied and worked for too many years to recount. Watching Sandra Bullock is like they stuck a hidden camera in our living room and stole our lives.

The Proposal – Ms. Bullock’s latest outing – is a predictable, nice enough rom com. Here she plays a career bitch Canadian who’s threatened with deportation to Toronto. To save herself, she conjures up a plan to marry her sweet, put-upon, eye-candy assistant, Ryan Reynolds, and as part of the deception, she joins him for a weekend with his family in Alaska. Cue lots of tottering power heels on soggy grassy lawns. Done to death as a concept, but still carried off well enough.

On the negative sides, Mr. Reynolds spends nowhere near enough time shirtless, which would seem to me to be a bit of a waste. Also, I don’t mean to be nasty, but ( – and unlike Helen, I might add, who remains gorgeous – ) Sandra’s a little long in the tooth for too many more romantic lead roles; she’s looking a wee bit taut. Interestingly also, in spite of a lot being made of the Sitka, Alaska, location – and the locations do indeed look like Sitka – the movie shot almost entirely in Massachussets, with the snowy peaks etched in on green screen.